“Christian spiritual formation is about learning in advance the language of God’s new world.” - NT Wright
Spiritual formation is about developing, in the present age, the character which anticipates the life of the age to come. This often involves doing what does not come naturally. Certain behaviors must be “put to death” in order to make way for our new “habits of life.”
Spiritual transformation does not occur by accident or without intention and effort.
This is what the apostle Paul means when he encourages Timothy to “train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:8) and what Peter means when he instructs us to “grow in grace” (1 Peter 3:18). If you want to learn a new language or play a musical instrument or run a business you must practice. Spiritual formation requires this same intentionality and practice. Spiritual disciplines such as solitude and silence, fasting and prayer, or study and service are the means to living out God’s vision for our lives.
Spiritual disciplines are all training us to do one thing; surrender.
Our willpower is easily fatigued. We can use our will to override old habits for a time, but habits will always beat our willpower in the long run.This is the brilliance of twelve step programs like AA. None of the steps say, “Try really, really hard not to drink.” Instead of mobilizing the will its followers learn to surrender their will. If you try to overcome addiction by willpower alone it will beat you. But if you surrender your will to a higher power then sobriety becomes possible.
Spiritual disciplines are about replacing my self-centered habits with habits of surrender.
- Solitude is about surrendering my need for attention
- Prayer is about surrendering my will for His will to be done
- Generosity is about surrendering my need for money or security
- Simplicity is about surrendering my need for the latest gadget or device
- Fasting is about surrendering my need for food
These habits train us to be people who are able to surrender to God.
“I submit my tongue as an instrument of righteousness when I make it bless them that curse me and pray for them who persecute me, even though it “automatically” tends to strike and wound those who have wounded me. I submit my legs to God as instruments of righteousness when I engage them in physical labor as service, perhaps carrying a burden the “second mile” for someone whom I would rather let my legs kick. I submit my body to righteousness when I do my good deeds without letting them be known, though my whole frame cries out to strut and crow. And when I do, I offer up my body as the place of God’s action.” - Dallas Willard
The only way to glory is through humility.
The only way to freedom is through submission.
The only way to victory is through surrender.